Urban environments are not comprised solely of physical objects like buildings, infrastructure, and landscapes, but also invisible and critically influential information like traffic patterns, economic values, and energy use. This intangible overlay of quantifiable urban behavior is essential to understanding how cities function. Vast quantities of urban data are now widely available through online open source data repositories, but the raw data remains limited in its value to support informed decision-making unless it can be synthesized and represented in a meaningful fashion. This paper describes in-progress research exploring the spatialization and representation of urban data using virtual reality (VR). This research uses Manhattan as a test case for enabling users to access urban data immersively and interactively from multiple vantage points and scales. It describes the process for visualizing the city in VR, representing urban data three-dimensionally, and creating a user interface for data interaction while in the virtual environment. The paper identifies initial steps towards creating an immersive representation of urban data to effectively inform future urban planning initiatives and design decisions.
Keywords: data visualization, urban data, mixed reality, smart cities, virtual environments, user interface